UN condemns Western sanctions on Zimbabwe
Harare(New Ziana) – Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the U.S and its Western allies two decades ago are hurting ordinary people and have contributed to the overall decline of the country’s economy, a visiting senior United Nations official said on Thursday.
The Western countries imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium to oppose the government’s decision to compulsorily acquire vast tracts of prime agricultural land from a few white commercial farmers to resettle thousands of landless black families.
The government estimates the sanctions, which also include travel bans to Western countries by top government officials, to have cost the country in excess of US$90 billion over the two decades years they have been in force.
But the West, in its typical hipocricy, denies imposing wider economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, instead only admitting to the travel bans and other personal penalties on targeted senior government officials.
After a series of meetings and briefings on the ground, visiting UN special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver rubbished the Western claims of personalised sanctions, and said the whole country, especially vulnerable citizens, had been badly affected by the penalties.
For example, contrary to the West’s claims of only maintaining targeted sanctions on top government officials, as of last month, 13 state owned enterprises, including the Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, were on the sanctions’ list, and 13 so called “other” enterprises.
“It is my strong conviction, based on what I have learned during the course of this mission, that these economic sanctions worsen the existing inequalities and do not have any actual impact on their supposed targets,” Elver, who was in the country for over a week on a fact-finding mission, said.
“I am also concerned about the negative impacts of the economic sanctions and conditionalities imposed on the government of Zimbabwe and their indirect costs on the overall civilian population, particularly on right to food,” she added.
“While sanctions target certain individuals and institutions, they contribute to creating a very adverse environment for business, international trade and foreign investment. To some extent, they also contribute to the overall atmosphere of corruption, uncertainty, and food insecurity and unemployment for the most vulnerable people in the country, particularly in these times of emergency.”
Her focus during the visit was drought and a cyclone that devastated parts of the country, both of which Elver said received a lukewarm international response due to the negative perception of the country because of the sanctions.
“The conditionalities under the ZIDERA Act (the US sanctions law against Zimbabwe) coupled with the failure by the government to clear its (debt) arrears make it a serious challenge for the government to access credit lines from international financial institutions. Such conditions clearly diminish the ability of the government to meet its obligation to adequately feed its people.
“Given the economic and food emergency presently existing in the country, I urge concerned member states, development partners and the international financial institutions, including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, to ease the conditions imposed on the deployment of funds to the Government. For similar reasons, I urge the termination of all sanctions,” she said.
Elver also rubbished claims by the West that sanctions on Zimbabwe were imposed over human rights violations by the government, and not differences over the country’s land policies.
“Zimbabwe has been under some form of sanctions since 2001. These targeted sanctions and conditionalities were imposed on the country following policy disagreements concerning the manner in which the land reform programme was handled,” she said.
She commended the country’s new government, which came to power two years ago, for initiating a re-engagement policy in which Zimbabwe is seeking to open a new page with all countries, and multilateral international institutions.
This, she said, showed the country was genuinely reforming, and had nothing to hide, even on the contentious human rights front.
“I would like to express my deep appreciation to the Government of Zimbabwe for extending an invitation to visit the country. This invitation is itself an expression of the Government’s willingness to open its doors to international human rights mechanisms,” Elver said.
“Furthermore, Zimbabwe has adopted a number of excellent policies to implement the right to food, amongst which are the National Nutrition Strategy, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, the Zimbabwe Agriculture Investment Plan, the Comprehensive Agricultural Policy Framework, the National Policy on Drought Management and the Food Deficit Mitigation Programme.
“My interlocutors in the government all expressed a strong commitment to a zero hunger policy. I would like to particularly praise the work undertaken by the Food and Nutrition Council to anchor Zimbabwe’s food and nutrition polices in human rights standards.”